Dir: John Madden. US. 2010. 113mins


A solid dramatic thriller with a strong Helen Mirren-led cast, The Debt is the kind of adult-oriented fare that nominal distributor Miramax might once have turned into a decent theatrical success. Its box office prospects don’t look so good now that Miramax has been downsized and put up for sale, though parent Walt Disney should still be able to exploit the film’s potential as a reliable video and TV offering.

A taut, atmospheric Cold War thriller that touches glancingly on post-Holocaust issues of justice and revenge.

Screenings at the Deauville and Toronto festivals will create some interest prior to the film’s delayed US release on December 29. Mirren and co-star Sam Worthington will be the main audience draws and their names may be particularly valuable when Disney takes the film out into the international marketplace. 

British writers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (who scripted Kick-Ass) worked with Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare At Goats) on the script, based on 2007 Israeli film Ha-Hov. Set partly in contemporary Israel and partly in 1960’s East Berlin, the film intertwines the story of three young Mossad agents on a secret - and ultimately unfulfilled - mission to capture a notorious Nazi war criminal with the characters’ troubled reunion thirty years later. 

As directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) the film works well as a taut, atmospheric Cold War thriller that touches glancingly on post-Holocaust issues of justice and revenge.

The love triangle that unites the three main characters across the decades is less convincing and the action gets melodramatic when the two plot threads come together in a modern day denouement.

Mirren, Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) and Ciaran Hinds (Race to Witch Mountain) do sterling work in the modern day scenes. The younger versions of the same characters are played by Avatar star Worthington, Jessica Chastain (soon to be seen in The Tree of Life) and New Zealander Marton Csokas (Alice in Wonderland).

Productions companies: Marv Films

US distribution: Miramax Films

International distribution: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International

Producers: Kris Thykier, Matthew Vaughn, Eitan Evan, Eduardo Rossoff

Executive producer: Tarquin Pack

Screenplay: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, Peter Straughan

Cinematography: Ben Davis

Production designer: Jim Clay

Editor: Alexander Berner

Music: Thomas Newman

Website: www.facebook.com/TheDebtMovie

Main cast: Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas, Jessica Chastain, Jesper Christensen